By Kat Bein
By Shea Serrano
By S. Pajot
By Terrence McCoy
By Falyn Freyman
By Shea Serrano
By Jacob Katel
By Michael E. Miller
It is finally time to Check Yo' Ponytail.
In August, the Los Angeles party and promotions collective — run by Iheartcomix's Franki Chan, Media Contender's Danny Johnson, and Zane Landreth — announced it would drag its monthly Echoplex open-genre explosion across the country on a ten-city road trip up the West Coast, over to Chi-Town and NYC, and even down to the MIA.
"We are very proud to announce the first-ever Check Yo' Ponytail National Tour!" the CYP staff exclaimed. "The tour will include Spank Rock, Big Freedia, Pictureplane, the Death Set, and Franki Chan!"
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The Ponytail road show also includes visuals by Demonbabies — not to mention secret headliners and special guests in L.A., San Fran, San Diego, Denver, Portland, and Seattle. Of course, that means Miami isn't set for any big surprises. We're simply getting the CYP tour's standard lineup, minus the Death Set.
But don't worry — Spank, Freedia, and Pictureplane will undoubtedly give yo' ponytail mo' checking than it can take. And just to be sure, we contacted Mr. Chan to talk party plans and proper Ponytail maintenance.
New Times: We've heard all about Check Yo' Ponytail via the Internet. But we've never actually been to Los Angeles and we've never attended the parties. Give us a history lesson.
Franki Chan: Well, in 2006, I had been doing a lot of dance parties. But prior to living in Los Angeles, I was booking shows at a venue in Seattle. And after three years of making a name for myself on the dance party scene in L.A., I really wanted to start a night where I could utilize my booking skills and try to meld a party atmosphere with a well-run live concert. Thus, Check Yo' Ponytail was born.
The party kinda died out after a couple years, though. What happened?
The original run lasted from 2006 to 2008. And in that time span, we got lucky and we were able to bring lots of different artists — like Justice, Matt & Kim, Boys Noize, Crystal Castles, and the Horrors — to Los Angeles for the first time. There's really a huge list of big acts that Check Yo' Ponytail was a portal for.
But toward the end of 2008, I began to be really busy with my record label and that first wave of artists had passed. There was just a point in time when it started to feel like the project was waning. We were booking the same artists over and over. And it didn't feel as urgent, so I decided to quit CYP for a bit. It felt good.
Luckily for party people across the country, though, you rebooted CYP.
Yeah. Last summer, my friend Danny Johnson, who also does Media Contender, started asking me why I wasn't doing Check Yo' Ponytail anymore. He really thought I should bring it back. And in the two years since it had stopped, the whole L.A. music scene had changed. There were a lot of big dance raves and great normal shows. But there was no one really trying to capture new, exciting music. So after that initial push from Danny, we decided as a team to bring Check Yo' Ponytail back.
With the reboot, did you set out to change the project in some major way? Or were you just hoping to recapture that classic Check Yo' Ponytail vibe?
Definitely there were changes. But I didn't want to do anything that might scar Check Yo' Ponytail's reputation, because I was really proud of the original run.
Still, there was a lot that had changed for me in a personal sense and I was ready to run things differently. It wasn't especially interesting doing, like, a weekly Los Angeles party. If we were going to do anything, I wanted it to be an overall experience for both the artists and the audience. I wanted it to have a life of its own.
And now you've taken this thing on tour. What's the Check Yo' Ponytail national agenda?
The strength of CYP is finding new artists and exposing them in a way that's larger than they are alone. We're kind of like marketing and management in the form of events. That's something I learned with the original run and working on Iheartcomix.
You know, when we brought the Check Yo' Ponytail series back, we wanted it to become this national brand. And the only way to do it is taking the show out on the road.
When you were masterminding the CYP lineup, what was the prevailing curatorial idea that led you to Spank Rock, Big Freedia, and Pictureplane?
We just wanted artists who were fun! And we also wanted to put together a greatest hits of Check Yo' Ponytail. Each one of these acts has headlined the show in L.A. and it just so happens they're all our friends too.
With Spank and Freedia, there's a certain strain of social commentary in their music. It's party tuneage. But it's also cultural critique. Does Check Yo' Ponytail have the same kind of mission?
Oh, yeah! One of the things I'm very proud of is the fact that this whole thing has always been very DIY. And you know, each of us — me, Danny, and our partner Zane Landreth — have our own businesses outside of Check Yo' Ponytail. I have the label, and they're both managers. And there's always been a certain level of politics involved.
We're basically trying this experimental thing. We're doing it independently. And hopefully, we can push change. It just feels good to be doing something new and fresh.
The first Check Yo' Ponytail trek is approximately three-quarters complete. You've already hit L.A., Denver, Portland, Chicago, and NYC. And just so Miamians are properly prepared, what's been going down at these tour stops?
It's pretty fuckin' crazy! [Laughs.]
To start, Pictureplane gets the dudes' party raging. He drops the dubstep. He has his dancers doing these weird moves. He even joins them! And everything gets destroyed. Then Freedia goes onstage and you got ass everywhere! And it ends with Spank Rock, who's totally bringing that classic dance party back.
Everyone on this tour is just so much fun to hang around, and that very quickly breeds this gang mentality, which translates onstage. It's really one of the best shows I've ever seen. [Laughs.] And I get excited every night about the fact that I get to watch it again!